Monday, April 30, 2012

Book Review: "Carry the One" by Carol Anshaw

Wow. I loved this book.

Late one night, after Carmen's wedding reception, a car containing several stoned wedding guests, including her siblings, Alice and Nick; her new sister-in-law (and Alice's girlfriend), Maude; Nick's new girlfriend, Olivia; and Tom, an aspiring singer and sometime-boyfriend of one of Carmen's friends, accidentally hits and kills a young girl on a dark country road. The accident affects each of them differently, but sticks with each of them for the rest of their lives. Carry the One follows Nick, Alice, and Carmen over a period of 25 years, as they struggle with love, relationships, marriage, raising children, career success, political activism, and the pull of addiction. The book deals with the heavy issues—loving your parents despite your "childhood from hell," letting an addict hit rock bottom without trying to save them, fighting not to love someone you know will hurt you repeatedly—but just as deftly deals with the humor, pathos, and delights of everyday life.

What I loved so much about this book is how quickly I was hooked into the characters' lives. I understood what motivated them, what made them happy or disappointed them, what they wanted most from life, and what their fears were. Even if I couldn't completely sympathize with each of the characters throughout the entire book (Carmen, in particular, can be more prickly than Nick or Alice), I felt totally immersed in the flow of the story and the way their lives progressed. And while this book isn't without its drama, some of the quieter moments are so beautifully written. I've seen some fantastic reviews of this book and a lot of lukewarm reviews (although it appears some of those stem from confusion about the plot), but I can unequivocally say this has been one of the best books I've read so far this year.

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